Archive for March, 2011

USA versus Argentina – Live commentary 3.26.11

The best players on their respective teams. Unfortunately Dempsey hasn't got much opportunity to prove it.

Agudelo and Chandler were the difference makers in the second half and if not for Howard the score would have been embarrassing. Argentina played pretty football but their finishing let them down…that and Howard was immense.

TWEEET TWEET TWEET. Well a draw. Who would have thought after the first half. Typical US resolve and never say die attitude got them a scrappy goal.

91:00 - 2 minutes of extra time. US did well to equalize but i think it really masks the fact that their defense was picked apart time and time again. Thank heavens for Howard who per usual was magnificent. Also lost was Argentina’s woeful finishing.

89:00 – Chandler has a five head. Not even a forehead… A FIVE HEAD!

86:00 - Good playing by the USMNT as they ping the ball around. Altidore sends in a good cross but it’s headed out. Messi counters and is finally dispossessed by 4 defenders. US counter very well, but again Argentina counter. Messi’s final shot is woeful though.

84:00 - Nothing comes from the corner, but the US wins a free kick in a dangerous area.

83:00 – US win a corner. Good chance here.

81:00 – ARGY BARGY!

79:00 – Game getting a little chippier and the US playing a lot better in the second half, at least on offense.

77:00 – Argentina having their away again, but Chandler blocks well. A definite for the future.

73:00 – Gooch showing his skills from his younger days as he muscles Di Maria off the ball as DeMerit loses the ball in front of the box. Good play by the veteran from Twente.

71:00 – US playing a lot better counter football and it has all to do with Agudelo who comes back for the ball and attacks with a purpose. It’s infectious as Altidore is also playing better and working hard.

69:00 – Agudelo playing with confidence as he is giving the Argentine defense something to think about.

67:00 - Chandler has been a very positive addition. His forays up front have been the impetus for all positive US attacks.

64:00 – One way to showcase how good a keeper Howard is. He has been pummeled over and over again, due to swiss cheese like defense and yet has only let in one goal. US get one chance and get one passed Andujar.

63:00 – Messi wins a free kick but his kick is poor and goes over.

61:00 - The USMNT took advantage of what they are good at by scoring of a set piece but their defense is JUST ATROCIOUS!!! If it wasn’t for Howard, the US would be down 9-1.

59:00 – GOAAAAL Agudelo scores at home from sloppy defending off a set piece. Donovan sends it in that Bocanegra sends goal wards. It is blocked by the keeper but Agudelo pokes it from inches away to equalize. Argentina 1 – US 1

58:00 – Levezzi gets acres of space as he runs at Bocanegra. Once again Howard saves the day by parrying the shot up in the air and catches it.

56:00 – Bradley doing a good job as a midfielder destroyer as he breaks up a couple of promising plays. Equal to the challenge is Mascherano who is not letting anything go by him.

52:00 - Nice play by the substitutes as Chandler crosses it into the box and Altidore flicks it down for Agudelo who sends a weak shot wide. Better and more imaginative from the US.

48:00 – Altidore and Agudelo do a good job of keeping possession and the US charge into the Argentina half. A cross comes in from Donovan, but it is cut off before Altidore can get a chance to put it in the back of the net nice positive play by the US.

47:00 - Argentina take over from where they left off as Di Maria has a quick shot that goes just over the bar.

46:00 – Looks like Agudelo is coming in for Jones and Chandler on for Spector.

PEEE PEEP and the second half is underway.

TWEEET TWEEET Half time. Well if the US are going to play so many players behind the ball, they can’t just sit there. THEY HAVE TO CHALLENGE the ball. That way if they get beat, there is someone right there to challenge again. What they are doing right now is just waiting for Argentina to take it to them which they gladly  are doing.

On offense…well its hard to play offense when you don’t have the ball, but their brief forays up field do look positive. Dempsey and Donovan need to take charge.

45:00 – Argentina continuing to dominate as they ignore the fact the US has defenders. The US are playing their role as spectators well. CHARGE THE FRIGGIN BALL!

42:00 – GOOOOALLLL - Cambioasso. Another display of ping pong passing as Messi gets the ball on the byline and slots into the middle, the first shot is saved but the rebound falls to Cambiasso and he hammers it into the back of the net. A wel deserved goal. On a positive note, the US defense was holding up somewhat up until then. Lesson to be learned. DON’T site back and wait. Argentina 1 – US 0

39:00 – US playing much better as they attack more, but lose the ball and it becomes the Messi show as he scampers through everyone and once again his shot is well saved by Howard.

37:00 – Deuce and Donovan show what they can do as Donovan holds the ball up and sends Deuce through, who shoots with his right, but its blocked, so he shoots the rebound with his left and that is well saved. Take note young US players…learn to shoot with both feet!

34:00 – Howard, per usual, is sparing the US’s blushes as he holds onto a ball as Di Maria waltzes through 4 US defenders who remain rooted to the spot. As good as Argentina is their finishing is poor.

32:00 – Now they’re giving a clinic on long range passing as Cambiasso brings the ball down and slots one for Di Maria to latch onto, but his shot is going wide as Howard pushes it even further wide. The US defense is looking slow.

30:00 – US gets a free kick, which they are always dangerous at, but Donovan’s (who has been absent from this game) delivery is poor.

28:00 – Spectacular passing all within 3 feet of each other as Messi’s shot flashes wide and no one in the middle to tap it in. Gorgeous stuff that.

24:00 - Messi goes down from a shot to the head from Gooch. Accidental but that has to hurt.

23:00 – Howard comes out bravely to deny Messi from a great bass by Banega. Argentina passing the ball at will.

20:00 – Bradley playing well as the defensive midfielder and has made several key blocks.

18:00 - Bocanegra gets hosed by i believe Levezzi as he waltzes through the defense and wins a corner. Nothing comes of it though.

17:00 - Would like to see that again, as that could have been a handball in the box against Argentina from a brief counter by the USMNT.

15:00 - Argentina playing an excellent job of keep-a-way as it is 5 against 10 in the US red zone. USMNT playing decent D.

12:00 - Messi shows his class and completely free’s up Di Maria in the box who for some odd reason decides to cross it back HARD, when a shot on goal could have produced better results.

11:00 – US work it well but Edu can’t get around 3 players and Argentina counter well. Spector does well to block a Rojo shot.

9:00 –  Gooch gets worked by Levezzi as his knee gives out or was it his ankle and he gets caught in possession. Nothing comes of it though.

8:00 - Messi’s first pass is not his best and it’s half cleared to Di Maria who has a shot straight at Howard who holds it well.

6:00 - Messi playing very shallow as cheers from the crowd as the ball is glued to his feet. Ball seems deflated.

2:00 - All Argentina in the opening up minutes, though Dempsey latches on to a bad pass and runs all the way into the box, but his shot is weak . Notice Messi playing D the whole way!

So cold out there that this simian is missing his....

PEEEEP. USMNT kicks it off in their shiny new tops!


A moment of silence for Japan. Classy call US federation!


Do they usually do anthems for friendlies? The place is packed!


Argentina: Andujar; Rojo, Milito, Burdisso, Zanetti; Mascherano, Cambiasso, Banega; Lavezzi, Messi, Di Maria

And now back to footie. Looks like a great atmosphere at the meadowlands. WOW that is a lot of kids to exchange!


So this might be blasphemous on this site, but am watching Butler versus Florida right now. I live, eat and breath soccer and it is by far my favorite sport, but I might say that the NCAA tourney could be the best sports tournament on the planet. No BS (except maybe the play in games), always upsets and cause its “amateur”, the players are playing for glory. They work their ass off and there is very little prima donna crap going on. Oh and go UCONN (when I moved to the states it was to CT and the Whalers were sent packing a few years later)


Still waiting on the official Argentine lineup, but as expected from BB, the US line up is probably their most experienced as well as their most predictable. Hope “sweats” experiments a bit. For me the big question is whether Deuce can replicate his club form on the international stage. Personally I think Dozy gets in his way.


USA: Howard; Spector, DeMerit, Onyewu, Bocanegra (c); Jones, Bradley, Edu; Dempsey, Donovan; Altidore



Back with lineups and kick off shortly


I hear it’s cold enough to re-configure the anatomy of a brass monkey out there at the Meadowlands. Our main man Matt Mathai is out patrolling the sidelines with “axe” in hand. Hopefully we will be seeing some of his stellar photographs in the up coming days. His brief current report from NJ is as follows “IT. IS. FREAKING. COLD!! I have on 4 layers of pretty sophisticated cold and wind gear and it feels like I’m wearing a tank top.”


Well we’re about 45 minutes from game time and there is not much to be said that hasn’t been said on our site or by our intelligent followers. This will be the first test (i see Brazil as a “lets push the USMNT hype a bit from the world cup” game) as to what we shall see in upcoming tournaments. They key is to see what Bradley senior does with what he learns today in the game against Paraguay.

Orange Slices: USA vs. Argentina

Orange Slices! USA vs. Argentina

Orange Slices is our game day, catch-all post that we update during the day before the match

Welcome to game day!

The USA “A” Team led by Bob Bradley and Carlos BocaJuniors headed northward Thursday from their Cary, NC training grounds to take on FIFA and CONMEBOL powerhouse Argentina in a friendly at the New Meadowlands, today, in front of 60,000 fans.

Kickoff  is set for 4p.m Best Coast and 7 p.m. ET.

TSG’s Official USA vs. Argentina Preview

For TSG’s “Playing Mourinho” game planning column click here.


English TV Broadcast: ESPN2

(Note, no ESPN pre- or post-game–being replaced with women’s World Cup promos)

Spanish TV Broadcast: Univision

Al Gore:

Live Commentary: Right here at TSG, courtesy Shaun Webb

If you’re outside of the States, we’ll try and locate a good stream for you.

Weather forecast:


Pleasant…if you live in Novo Scotia in February. Just above freezing at kick-off. I can already hear Angel DiMaria’s teeth chattering.

More here.

Surf forecast:

C’mon…not this time buddy. Asbury Park, your closest break.


Don’t Tread On Red: As we confirmed in January, the men’s team will debut some snazzy new red kits. ‘Bout time.

History 101: The U.S. has played Argentina nine times in their history, holding a lifetime record of 2-6-1 against the Artists Formerly Vice-Gripped by Maradona.

The last time? A 0-0 draw on June 8, 2008 at the same site as today.


Dog Years: Average Caps, USA vs. Chile? 1.1 …. Average Caps, USA vs. Argentina: 30.5

Balboa: This pic not photoshopped...

Bald is beautiful: With a cap in this game, Landon Donovan passes Marcelo Balboa for 3rd place outright on the US caps list.

The Ricardo Clark Butterfly Effect:

In a role reminiscent of one that Rico Clark played during qualifying, Maurice Edu is rumored–via a Grant Wahl tweet–to be pushed up the field as an advanced central midfielder. He would be backended by Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones.

Mistake. Not a Balboa haircut mistake, but not far from it.

Ze Americans:

German Americans David Yelldell and Timothy Chandler got their first camp invites. Chandler should make the 18.




More coming throughout the day–add to the commentary any news and we’ll move it up here in the body of the post…

Playing Mourinho: TSG’s USA-Argentina Game Plan

Been meaning to do an addendum post like this for awhile during games.

Let's just say we've confused with this guy before...

We often get the request here at TSG that asks, “What would we do for team set-up and strategy for a US game.” That is, don’t project what Bob Bradley would do–we did that in our official preview–but what we do if we were in Bob’s….sweats.

That didn’t come out right.

Today we introduce “Playing Mourinho.” If you guys like the segment, let me know and we’ll try to get it going more frequently.

Let’s give it a whirl:

Our objective: Put on a qualitative performance against Argentina at the Meadowlands, but not at the risk of developing for the future.

It terms of the Gold Cup, we’ve already got enough talent to beat everyone and be 50-50 with Mexico in that final game at the Rose Bowl. I’m less concerned with Gold Cup preparation than I should be perhaps.

If we saw anything with “last” cycle with Bob Bradley it’s that his positive penchant for bringing in a lot of players (I believe three times more during the cycle than his predecessor Bruce Arena) also had the negative impact of not allowing the team to gel.

No fault of his own mind you–when you’re working with the likes of Robbie Findley and Eddie Johnson, it’s understandable.

Our strategy: Argentina plays a nasty 4-2-4. There front four players in Lavezzi, Pastore, the unparalleled Lionel Messi and Di Maria are all dangerous with the ball and sharp moving off of it.

Whereas Batista’s predecessor, Maradona, made some glaring miscalculations in the midfield and the backline, Batista’s Argentina team is exceedingly more complete.

Whereas Maradona left Javier Mascherano to fend as the lone holder (who himself would watch Maxi Rodriguez and Angel DiMaria be more focused on the attack), Batista has rightfully employed both Mascherano and midfield big stick man Esteban Cambiasso in the middle (and occassionally sacrificed Pastore for Ever Banega to another box-to-boxer).

In the back Batista has balanced a defensive side that saw centerbackers like Otamendi on the outside with the still savvy Zanetti and the emerging Roja–Zanetti is a pleasure to watch defensively whereas Roja plays defense by merely being more athletic and younger than anyone else.

Argentina will try to have Messi as their attack iniator with a trailing Pastore to switch the point of attack and/or play in Lavezzi and DiMaria.

1st half States attack...

Given the forward and off-ball movements of the four it will be very difficult for the US–I mean our–backline to get wide or get out on the attack. Especially on the left flank where Javier Zanetti loves to play Steve Cherundolo and race endline to endline.

So I’m just going to forget about that left flank, completely. I’m going to plop Bocanegra there and tell him I don’t care if there is a free ball up the field and you can make a cross or take a shot. Stay at home because I know you’re 32 in a few months.

I put Tim Ream inside of him. He’s a natural lefty and sadly (or happily enough), he’s got the best distribution skills of the lot of centerbacks.

Jay DeMerit and Eric Lichaj complete the back four. I just haven’t seen Chandler enough and I watched Lichaj at least tie up Bale once.

DeMerit trumps Oguchi Onyewu because of his agility and man-tracking. Crosses out wide (the few there may be) may be played more on the floor than in the air. I’m comfy with DeMerit, Ream and goalie Tim Howard in taking care of them. Lichaj has a cautious license to go forward I might add.

Ahead of the back four, I complete my 4-4-2.

Here’s the thing. I don’t think Jermaine Jones should be the primary creator. From what I’ve seen of him in that role, I think he forces it a bit much. I want to alleviate that responsibility from him.

That said, I need calmness and distribution on the ball. And that’s why I drop Edu. Edu is still challenged in possession from time-to-time and one ill-timed turnover and the US may get caught out. Like it or not about Junior Bradley who likes to spray hospital balls up the pitch from time to time, he rarely makes a mistake in possession in the defensive third. This of course would have been my ideal role for discoing Stu Holden.

I’m going to use the savvy Jermaine Jones as the primary tackler on Messi on the left and I’m going to push Bradley up. As much as TSG is a fan of Pastore, the youngster can get rattled when it’s a physical game. There you go Junior. Have at him.

I do go 4-4-2 but it looks more like an unbalanced 4-2-2-2. I’ve got Donovan countering behind DiMaria with Juan Agudelo ahead stretching the defense. Once that space clears Dempsey can go to work if we can beat Mascherano to an open line to the goal.

I’m going to use Jozy Altidore in multiple ways. We can either sweep almost horizontally across the formation and provide a target option. I choose Jozy instead of Buddle here because I can also have Jozy go out wide with a little Carragher-esque move around Ottamendi or whoever follows him around out there.

Remember Jozy’s playing wing now and frankly he looks his best when steamtraining around the corner somewhere. Additionally, I’ve seen him look best on that left side.

As you guessed I’m playing on the counter, but a key note here is I play quick and not defensive. Let’s let Lichaj especially fend for himself so Donovan isn’t drawn back to help him. I can’t respect *both Messi and DiMaria that sets the wrong tone for the team.

Similarly with Jones keeping tabs on Messi I try to keep Dempsey as high as possible as well.

Should my 4-4-2 fail…meaning I can ping it quickly through Junior and Jones to Donovan and Dempsey, then I’m going to insert Benny Feilhaber and sacrifice Jozy at the 46th minute, not the 60th minute.

I am willing to take a gamble from what I saw of him in the Chile game that Agudelo can play hold up ball if called upon through the air.

And that’s what I got.

Everybody hold on!

TSG’s Official USA vs. Argentina Preview

And we kick off our USA vs. Argentina preview.

The last time we may be able to show this as a positive for JB....

The United States’ Men’s National “A” Team takes the field for the first time since their friendly against Poland in Chicago in October 2010. They’ll be greeted, coldly, by a nearly full-stacked Argentinian team led by Lionel Messi, John Cryer-look-a-like Javier Mascherano, and the object of TSG’s fawning, Javier Pastore.

The South American team is gearing up for the Copa America later this year. The weather? Frigid and expected to be near freezing at game time. (The line on poor snood comments Saturday evening already stands at 36 in-broadcast, please don’t do your part).

Here are some foundational points for shaping this preview:

» There will be over 60,000 people expected at the Meadowlands to bear witness.

After Brazil went Jimmy Hoffa on the Yanks last August, my premise is that the US will use their best or near-best line-up.

This will be Bradley’s first time seeing the regulars in almost five months and with the game being televised on the ESPN network, a good showing would be appreciated by USSF honcho Sunil Gulati.

» I’m completely flummoxed by what Bob Bradley does in the midfield, now that Stu Holden can only play xBox. It makes it immediately exciting, but also difficult to predict.

What I’m saying is, I’ll name our “11 at the Whistle” as is customary below, but my faith in the formation and how the player selections are deployed, is near an all-time low.

The media's new favorite toy....

» Timothy Chandler, the highly-lauded, as yet to be seen Bundesliga up-and-comer, has been playing right back in practice this week.

By the way, the hype of the “next big thing” always follows the “shiny new Yank around,” but I’m amazed at some of the media coverage on Chandler defining his game. I’ve got about 15 minutes of his game on a grainy stream a few months ago. You mean to tell me that the media folks can already qualify this player as “this type” or “that type?”

Didn’t media hounds learn about their misplaced positional and style allegiance by declaring Edgar Castillo fit for a World Cup roster spot as an “attacking left back?”

Anywho…we soldier on.

Let’s get on with our customary, not seen in awhile preview.

Per usual, it goes: (I can feel the excitement building)

TSG: What We’re Looking At

11 At the Whistle



TSG: What We’re Looking For:

• Is this Bob Bradley II or Bob Bradley I merely ensconced in new sweats?

What's going on in there Bob?

A shame that Coach Sweats lost the Egyptian friendly to unfriendly fire.

That game would likely have been an opportunity to test drive some newer faces in advance of Gold Cup selection and this friendly series would be the ability to have some of those in place or begin building chemistry.

Yes, the 2011 Gold Cup is vital. For those that are new to the game, the winner of the Gold Cup gets the ticket to the annual Confederation’s Cup (aka World Cup dress rehearsal) tournament in 2013.

Back in October, coach Bradley mixed it up a little bit on both the personnel side (Maurice Edu at centerback) and on the formation side (a midfield triumvirate of three central midfielders Jones, Bradley and Edu gluing together a 4-3-3).

Little is known about which way Bradley will go formation wise against Argentina.

That said, a glance at the roster shows the lack of any “true winger.” No Ale Bedoya, no DaMarcus Beasley, and if you want to consider it, no Stu Holden who can sling in a cross.

Further, the absence of players like Jose Torres and Dax McCarty suggests that the US will not play ping-pong horizontally, and stick with the direct football that’s been their custom.

Argentina’s deployment and their offensive firepower, further suggests the best way for Bradley to play, will again to be on the counter. (Note: I haven’t even mentioned Germany’s throttling of Argentina in the World Cup by countering them un-mercilessly. Yes Batista toes the touchline instead of Maradona these days, but that lesson will not be lost on Coach Sweats.)

Back to the Yanks. Many clubs and countries are finding it difficult to locate that winger that likes to take it wide and around the fullback, and play in a cross or gain the corner. As mentioned, Bradley’s selection starkly shows that wide play will consist of probably two offensive strategies that should shape his team selection and formation: 1) Drawing a striker (Altidore?) across the field and laying off to a trailing Donovan or in-cutting Dempsey or 2) using the right flank overlap with Cherundolo–absent for this camp–and Donovan. (we’ll get to #2 in a bit)

So with that said, that leaves two offensive formations that the Yanks will play, the vaunted 4-4-2 and the trending 4-2-3-1.


The only way the US goes true 4-4-2 is if Juan Agudelo is deployed from the get-go on Saturday and believe it or not, I do think there is a shot of it. (We’ll diagnose that position in a moment).

But the key point in this bullet is, how does Bradley view the roles in the midfield and how progressive is he with his roster in starting to develop players for 2014? That would be Bob Bradley II.

Bob Bradley I: Go with those that he trusts and the Michael Bradley initiator that was the formula at the World Cup.


• Jozy, we finally found you some friends.

Jozy Altidore is still the best option up top for the Yanks.

Now consider this.

Jozy Altidore is playing good minutes, but part-time, in the SuperLiga in Turkey in the midfield.

Not a recipe for striker development however.

Jozy maybe we found you some competition?

The best part about new options at striker for the Yanks is that Altidore will finally need to claim his role as oppose to be the lone candidate for it.

International speed? Difference maker?

In Juan Agudelo, Bob Bradley has a player that has speed and the ability to attack and run at defenders. However his best complementary asset may prove all his worth.

If Chile was a prelude, the best thing I saw Agudelo do–the range of his game if you will–was hold up the ball and seal off defenders with his back to the basket. (Frankly that was Findley’s main asset beyond speed–the Nottingham Forest player was more than decent at it.)

Saturday–pending how and when he is deployed–really is the first chance to start investigating this question on the New York Red Bulls youngster: Is Juan Agudelo 2011: a) a difference-maker in the International game, b) merely a complement or c) a word in progress for 2014 at best.

• Whose got the best ‘Dolo impression? Will they be allowed to mug for it?

Yes, yes, the centerback situation for the Yanks bares watching, especially when you consider that all the goals given up by the Americans at the World Cup, were down the center of the field, not by rounding the flankers.

So yes, TSG will be looking at that.

That said, a window into Bob Bradley’s going forward game strategy will be unveiled in this set of friendlies.

Just how much will Bob Bradley rely on the overlapping fullbacks to create width on the pitch? Beyond one Steve Cherundolo, the rest of the outside backs (Boca, Bornstein, Spector) all play like they’re being tethered to a place–a defensive place–on the field. (And rightly so I might add.)

Will Bradley entrust players like Spector, Lichaj and Chandler to get forward? And can those players impact the game or does them going forward just play into Argentina’s hands.

Jermaine Jones & Michael Bradley OR Michael Bradley & Jermaine Jones?

• I’m the rapper; he’s the DJ

Benny Feilhaber, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley. Please stand up. All three of these players have some capability to play the Yanks maestro in the middle of the field.

Will Feilhaber be advanced or be used tucking in from the left? Will Michael Bradley be pushed up with Jermaine Jones as the destroyer behind him? Or will it be vice versa?

Same thing here. The first 15 minutes on Saturday will be very telling as to who Bradley values and why. It is of course, the first chance to potentially see Bradley junior and Jones pair together, since they were running into one another outside of Philadelphia in the Colombia game.

11 At The Whistle

STR: Edson Buddle

The skinny: Jozy Altidore just got to camp on Wednesday. Maybe ready to go by Sunday, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Bradley goes up top with Buddle here.

FW: Clint Dempsey

MID: Benny Feilhaber, Landon Donovan

CDM: Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley

The skinny: Aforementioned. Three players all capable of playing the conduit. Two players capable of being the destroyer. How does it shake out?

DEF: Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit, Tim Chandler Jonathan Spector

The skinny: A veteran backline is employed with the exception of Tim Chandler. Since Lichaj was a late invite, I doubt he’s a starter. I would have suggested Jonathan Spector as the starter, but I’ll go out on a limb with Chandler. Omar Gonzalez got his first cap against Brazil. The best way to find out what a player is made of, is to throw him into the fire–with veterans around him. (Update: Changed to Spector, 03/25)

Other points:

* Hard to bring in Jay DeMerit to a camp and take him away from a club game if you’re not going to play him. DeMerit’s tracking ability on the Argentine forwards will be needed.

* Similarly with Gooch, he’s playing leftback these days at Twente. If I would have dropped any veteran from the starting team, it would have been him, but Bradley has a soft spot for the big guy and gives him a chance here to show his agility.

* Bocanegra. While I think Bornstein is a better option here. You don’t sit the captain. That said, it’s Lionel Messi out there on that left wing, not Aaron Lennon.

G: Tim Howard

The skinny: There is no skinny here. He’s bald, he’s a bad man and he’s been marshaling the defense for four years.

The US on the attack....


» Jonathan Spector for Tim Chandler at RB: Seems even more probable than plausible. A big challenge to Chandler starting? Little command of the English language.

Odds: 60%

» Jonathan Bornstein for Bocanegra at LB, Boca to CB, Guch to the Bench: Don’t see it. Would say a lot about Bradley’s continued infatuation with JB.

Odds: 50%

» Altidore for Buddle: Coin flip.

Odds: 50%

4-4-2 disclaimer....

» States goes 4-4-2: This is all about what Coach Bradley thinks of Juan Agudelo

Odds: 25%

» The Yanks go with a narrow 4-2-3-1 with Feilhaber as the hub: If you remember, the US beat a similar team to Argentina in Spain back in 2009. In the 2nd half of that match, the States looked great with Feilhaber pushed up the field and linked up with Donovan and Dempsey. An option.

Odds: 17%

About Argentina:

As I wrote earlier this week (though I had some players out of place), Argentina plays a 4-3-3. However it really functions more like a 4-2-4. The front four is a diamond typically with Messi cutting in from the right and DiMaria going wide on the left.

Javier Pastore, as opposed to Valencia’s Ever Banega, expects to get the start in the Tevez role, which is the withdrawn striker capable of carnage role. As I wrote back here, many in Argentina think the key to 2014 success, is the interplay of Pastore and Messi. I’m not sure I like an internal role for Pastore, but Saturday should tell at least part of the tale for one of TSG’s favorite non-American players. (If you don’t know about the man-crushing that’s moved from Feilhaber to Pastore…well you’re probably better off for it.)

The challenge that Argentina will have will be integrating Lavezzi (not a huge challenge mind you). He’s played the point before and with Higuain and Aguero not in for this friendly series, Lavezzi will have continue to play a true #9 role. (For Napoli he plays wide.)

Captain Javier Mascherano and Esteban “I should have been in South Africa” Cambiasso play the holders. Occasionally, Banega will be deployed here as well.

Javier Zanetti is the only fullback that usually joins the attack. The rest of the backline will be Nicolás Otamendi, Nicolás Burdisso and one of either Pablo Zabaleta or the youngster Marcos Rojo at leftback. I think you may see Rojo here, as I believe he is the lone lefty. (What no Heinze!)

Goalie Sergio Romero is a constant for Batista’s men.

Argentina on the attack...

Imagery: Charlie Davies Comes Back

Guess who’s shooting USA vs. Argentina for TSG again. That’s right. Hansel Adams. He’s so hot right now.

Actually, it’s Matt Mathai.

And apologies…I just went through my inbox. Mathai with some gems of that special match last Saturday.

DC United’s Charlie Davies precious moments as he scored two goals in his first league game.

Continue reading

Your Euro 2012 Primer Begins Here

TSG’s Serie A man Eric Giardini goes continental in this piece

UEFA stamps out some pretenders this weekend...

This weekend not only brings about only the resumption of what some may call “meaningless” friendlies, but also the continuation of qualification for the 2012 European Football Championships to be held next summer in Poland and Ukraine. After the weekend, qualification will be halfway complete and the picture of next summer’s participants will begin to take shape.

For me personally, the European Championships have always held a special place in my soccer heart. My first exposure to the EUROs was in 2000. I remember flipping through the channels in the spare bedroom of my house just outside of Richmond, Virginia. I was 15 years old that summer so I was too young to be a “productive member of society” and hold a part-time job. School and just gotten out and I was looking for something to fill the time. As I lied on the bed mindlessly going through the 12 channels I had (this was before I had cable), I came across a channel that had no picture but still got audio. After listening to the audio for a bit, I realized that it was soccer of some sort, but I knew it could not have been the World Cup since it was midway through the four year cycle. It was only, after listening for what seemed like a while, did the announcers mention that it was the 2000 UEFA European Championships from Belgium and The Netherlands.

Tears down the Tyneside when Alan Shearer retired....

For the next three weeks I would lie on that bed, close my eyes, listen, and visualize the names and action on the imaginary pitch that I heard from that television. Alan Shearer, Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Francesco Totti, and Edgar Davids are names that still come to me when I think back on that tournament. I remember the heart stopping, crippling excitement when Italy and The Netherlands went to their semifinals penalty shootout and the heartbreaking anguish of Italy losing in the finals to the same French team that won the World Cup two years prior. I still don’t think I’ve ever actually seen David Trezeguet’s cup-winning Golden Goal, and to be honest, I hope I never do.

I was much more on top of things in 2004 as I sat and marveled at how Greece, a team that seemed to have no desire to score a goal, managed to make it to the finals and beat the host nation Portugal. Unfortunately, I was not able to watch as many of the matches as I would have liked in 2004 as I was in between my freshman and sophomore years of school and was working two jobs to help pay my way through college.

That changed in 2008 as I was fresh out of graduate school with no job prospects and nothing but time, and student loans, on my hands. I must have watched every match of that tournament that summer and have fond memories of my roommate at the time’s family from Peru come over to watch the Spain v Germany final and speaking to them in Spanish as they cheered on Germany and we cheered on Spain.

The 2012 edition is just the latest in a line of European Championships that I am excited to be getting closer to. As my soccer savviness as grown over the years, and I am much more aware of the qualification processes of major tournaments, I’m finding the qualification process to EURO 2012 almost as exciting as the actual tournament will be next summer. Almost.

Next summer’s tournament’s qualification is different than years past. In 2008, the 50 qualifying nations were divided into seven groups with the top two in each group automatically qualifying, along with the hosts Austria and Switzerland, for the final field of 16. For qualification for 2012, 51 nations (Montenegro has since joined UEFA) have been divided into six groups of six and three groups of five in a round-robin home-and-away format. The winners of the nine groups, and the second-place finisher with the most points from their group, will automatically qualify for next summer’s tournament while the remaining eight runner-ups will play in a home-and-away playoff to round out the tournament field. The 14 that survive the 13 month grind will join the two hosts to round out the field of 16.

Tournament Subplots to Become Familiar With:

Qualification for any major international tournament never goes according to plan – some nations struggle at the beginning only to find their feet later on to eventually qualify (Argentina in 2010 World Cup qualification). Others struggle and end up not qualifying and sending an entire nation into a panic (England in 2008 European Championship qualification). Every qualification match is important no matter if you are up against the likes of Germany or Spain or against a traditional minnow like San Marino or Azerbaijan. Below are a few of the qualification subplots that have emerged:

Oozing class: Ozil for Germany...

1)     The “Big Guns” are firing on All Cylinders: Germany, The Netherlands, and Spain have all started their respective campaigns with a bang with perfect records and high goal differential numbers. The most impressive among these nations has been Germany. In four Group A matches, Germany is outscoring its opponents 13-1. As we saw in South Africa, this new-look German squad has no trouble scoring goals. It will be interesting to see if this form can continue throughout qualification and into the tournament.

2)     Tiny Montenegro in Front of the Three Lions: Group G sees Montenegro atop of the group with 10 points from its first four matches. This puts the tiny nation three points clear of England – although the English have a match in hand. The two played to a 0-0 draw at Wembley Stadium back in October. This is remarkable for a federation that was only established in 2007. Their quick start has them up to 25th in the latest FIFA World Rankings (take that how you will) and tied with traditional African power Côte d’Ivoire. Needless to say, this all has captain Mirko Vučinić very excited.

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